Tending your ideas is an obligation

I currently feel sad, hurt, and disappointed. It has nothing to do with anything at work. Something felt off.

I did what I usually do to figure out problems. I went for a walk, found a nice place to sit, and began writing, sketching, and reflecting to figure out where the source of this feeling is. After going through more than a dozen dotted grid Leuchtturm notebooks, the source of the feeling became abundantly clear. Upon each page turn, it became more challenging. My notebooks became a graveyard for ideas. Each drawing or note invoked a memory of the moment when that idea was generated. The ideas vary, from product ideas that might bring joy to people in a time of despair for the world, artwork, and design tools that could really infuse the process to build quicker.

In contrast that bad ideas should be jettisoned, when a good idea dies, it really hurts. These feelings reminded me of a moment in Bret Victor’s talk, “Inventing on Principle”:

“Ideas are very precious to me, and when I see ideas dying, it hurts. I see a tragedy. To me it feels like a moral wrong. It feels like a moral injustice, and if i think there is anything I can do about it, I feel it’s my responsibility to do so. Not opportunity, but responsibility.”

Victor follows up mentioning that the words “moral wrong” and “injustice” are not ones you often hear in tech. However, it is pretty powerful when you look at being a someone who works in tech having an obligation and responsibility. I resonate strongly with these remarks and don’t expect people to agree and believe this perspective.

When I see an idea dying, it hurts me so much emotionally. What travesties could we have prevented by seeing an idea all the way through? How many people did not experience something you didn’t make become a reality? What could I have doe to not let this injustice happen?

Like a garden, ideas need room and time to grow. They also need to be nurtured and maintained. Ideas also have a life expectancy and need to be cared for and nurtured. If they are neglected or not attended to, they fade from existence.

  • Revisit ideas daily. Gardens need to be watered, and so do your ideas
  • Ideas are stronger tethered with other ones. This is why I like to mind map and think about lateral thinking

I formulated my own list of things I can do to commit to tending to ideas:

  • Be able to build the real thing. Design prototypes can only take you so far. Learn the entire product process and be able to ship without being dependent on anyone
  • Make time in the mornings to review notebooks or wherever ideas reside and do something to push it to become real

Generate ideas, share them, and be held accountable to make sure the good ones become something real instead of a concept.

Tangibility is the oxygen for ideas. Keep ideas alive. It is your responsibility.